Cops as Case Workers?



Last Thursday, I “showed up”* at the Cambridge Police Department to attend a strange (and potentially wonderful) meeting.

The cities of Somerville, Cambridge and Everett, funded by a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, plan to “reduce crime and improve safety . . . through a coordinated and sustainable intelligence-driven model that identifies the most prolific repeat offenders that impact all three jurisdictions and disrupt their offending through focused deterrence.” [from the meeting’s hand-out.] A second section explained: “The effort is coordinated by an interagency working group involving federal and local police, probation, prosecutors, and community resource personnel.” (That last bit; that’s me, apparently.)

Basically, “focused deterrence” means two things: “We know who you are.” and “I am a Somerville or Cambridge or Everett cop and I’m referring you to a drug treatment program because you need help.” Wow.

Prompted by the Annie Dookhan Situation, this initiative, called Operation RASOR (Regional Analytics for the Safety of Our Residents), elicits, not surprisingly, a schizoid response from me: “Oh, great! Big Brother and hassle and surveillance for ALL of us.” (If the police are to keep track of targeted ex-offenders, who else are they watching?)


“Great! Maybe this is how the paradigm, aka The War on Drugs, shifts.” Because if, for example, the police do begin to refer long-time drug users and dealers (the men and women they’ve been arresting since 1971, the year that hopeless yet devastating War began) to drug treatment centers, they will discover what re-entry “community resource personnel” already know: There ain’t enough. Ditto, finding a job in Massachusetts if you have a record. Ditto, in greater-Boston, finding an affordable place to live.

Maybe, just maybe, if men and women in blue join the re-entry conversation, something different can happen.

I believe it’s possible.


*To be present, to witness, to publicly identify as a Quaker.

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